Authors E.J. Hutchinson Eastern Europe/Caucasus Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism Sacred Doctrine Uncategorized

Calvin on the Trinity (1)

The topic of the Trinity has been #trending in recent months, and its proper understanding has been a matter of dispute.

Disputes about the Trinity are nothing new, of course, and the Trinitarian theology of this site’s namesake has itself often been the subject of controversy. Calvin himself, in turn, was involved in Trinitarian debates in his own day.

One of those was in Poland, which was something of a hotbed for such controversy; and though much of Calvin’s work is available in English, I’m not certain that that is true of the short Trinitarian work, found in CR 37/CO 9: 633ff., I plan to translated in this series. I haven’t done a lot of investigating, but even if it has been translated it does not seem to be easily available.

I intend to do this in relatively brief segments. The first is below.

John Calvin’s brief admonition to the Polish brothers, in order that they not, by imagining a threefold essence in God in place of the three persons, fashion three gods for themselves

It was not without the most bitter grief that I examined a document recently published in Poland, which makes Christ and the Holy Spirit to be different gods from the Father. Lately this care made me anxious, not without reason: namely, my fear lest the insolence of Francesco Stancaro violently drag off those untrained in Scripture, and bring it about that they, for the sake of avoiding one absurdity, fall into another more foul. What I feared, then, is what came about, and by a sad example it was revealed how harmful a disease contention is, where the purpose is to overcome one’s adversary rather than simply to protect a good cause. The clod-headed madness of Stancaro was deservedly rejected by the Polish brothers. But while they watched out for one sly move of the devil, another impostor slipped in like a snake: Giorgio Biandrata, a man worse than Stancaro. And he abused this opportunity to sow an error not less detestable. Undoubtedly, from the beginning was Satan so cunning, and now too he transforms himself in various ways and, as if in conflict with himself, he cleverly steals in to ensnare the wretched in various kinds of errors. We have lately refuted Stancaro’s madness substantively and clearly. Now I beseech and exhort our borthers who have been deceived by the cunning of a few men that they at least not be irked to attend to my admonition once they have settled their minds. But if they will be docile with the goal of recovering their senses, it will not be difficult for me, I hope, to make them turn away in horror from that impious invention that they have–too lightly and without due consideration–embraced.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.